“A fig leaf of a climate plan”

Climate control or cover up?

The Morrison Government’s “new” Climate Solutions package has been given the raspberry and branded “a fig leaf of a plan”, a half-hearted makeover of Direct Action. And in its response to the “new” plan, the Smart Energy Council has beefed up its campaign for renewable energy generation in the face of the climate change emergency.

The nub of the Coalition’s package: a $2 billion Climate Solutions Fund topping up the Emissions Reduction Fund, with $600 million over the next four years; $56 million towards a new interconnector between Tasmania and the mainland to help build the Battery of the Nation project; and $1.4 billion of taxpayer’s money to flow to the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme.

Also listed was development of a (somewhat vague) National Electric Vehicle strategy and energy efficiency measures for business and households including expanding the energy ratings labels system.

Commentators have picked on some of the rubbery figures, among them pledge of $2 billion over 10 years to the ERF which is, in fact, on track to burn through $2.55 billion in half that time. Meaning: the annual spend is actually being slashed from an average of $510 million to $200 million.

It’s no secret the feasibility of Snowy 2.0 has long caused industry economists to shake their heads.

Now the impact of the proposed additional Bass strait interconnector is being questioned (see next story).

To the general public the  figures might sound impressive, as does the general thrust of the climate solutions package, but it is just a limp, patch up job?

Smart Energy Council chief executive John Grimes said “We saw Scott Morrison deliver the speech, but clearly heard Tony Abbott’s words.

“Scott Morrison has topped up Tony Abbott’s Emissions Reduction Fund, maintained Tony Abbott’s emissions reduction target and continued Tony Abbott’s contempt for action on climate change.

“We need to do whatever we can to increase solar and wind and other renewables, not lock in a failed policy.

"Renewables increase competition, slash costs, and deliver clean energy.

“Instead of fast tracking the connection of renewables, Scott Morrison’s answer is to lock in failed policy, and say we will meet our targets ‘in a canter’.”

The Smart Energy Council is presenting a Smart Energy and Climate crisis webinar on Thursday March 7 from 3-4pm to address these issues.

At the webinar Prof Mark Howden, Director Climate Change Institute, ANU will address the climate change emergency and Amanda McKenzie of the Climate Council will outline Smart energy as a response to the climate emergency.

Also presenting is Simon Corbell, Chief Advisor, Energy Estate, on ‘Moving beyond 50 per cent renewables’.

John Grimes who will lead the discussion says hundreds have already registered for the webinar.

An insight into what Amanda McKenzie will say is provided in The Climate Council’s response to the “solutions” package and whose views reflects those of the Smart Energy Council.

Ultimately the Federal Government is doubling down on a bad policy, the Climate Council wrote. Emissions have continued to rise every year for the past four years under the current ERF policy.

Pumping funding into a bad policy is like trying to inflate slashed tyres on a bike - a waste of time, effort and money.

Not only that, the ERF is also being used to prop up fossil fuels, with funding going towards a fossil fuel power plant (that would have been built anyway) justified on the grounds that the new fossil fuel power plant will be ‘cleaner’ than the one it will replace.

“This beggars belief.

“For any climate policy to be credible, it must drive down fossil fuel emissions rapidly and deeply.

“The measures will do little to protect Australians from worsening extreme weather and climate events such as the devastating droughts, bushfires and floods felt across the country this summer,” Climate Council says.

“The Australian public wants swift action on climate change, and this announcement is an admission that the Government knows climate change is a vote-changing issue.”

Shadow Climate Change Minister Mark Butler had this to say: “Scott Morrison and the Liberals will go to any length to avoid taking serious action on climate change.

“If the Liberals were serious about climate change, Malcolm Turnbull would still be Prime Minister. Instead, Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister who brought a lump of coal into Parliament, has now fully embraced Tony Abbott’s climate policy - a policy that sees taxpayers footing the bill for big polluters.

“After five years and $2.25 billion spent, the ineffective Emissions Reduction Fund only saw pollution go up, and up, and up. Malcolm Turnbull was right when he famously described Tony Abbott’s climate change plan as a ‘fig leaf to cover a determination to do nothing’.

“The Government’s own data shows carbon pollution levels have been rising since the election of Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, with Australia on track to miss the Government’s already inadequate 2030 climate target of a 26 per cent cut in carbon pollution by a full 19 per cent.”

Mark Butler says throwing a further $2 billion of taxpayers money at Tony Abbott’s signature policy shows the Liberals will never take climate change seriously.

“If Scott Morrison was really serious about tackling climate change, he would dump his plans to spend even more taxpayers money on building new coal-fired power stations.”

He reiterated Labor’s plan to invest in renewables and tackle climate change with its 50 per cent renewables target by 2030 and emissions reduction target of 45 per cent by 2030.